Sunday, July 6, 2014

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy VIII (SquareSoft, 1999; Playstation): Issue #005: The Idiot Hand

Rinoa is no Gavrilo Princip, I'll clue you that much right now.

Rinoa's grand plan when she and her fellow Forest Owls hired SeeD was to kidnap the president of Galbadia, a dude named Vizner Deling, presumably to demand that he free the nation of Timber from Galbadian control. Given what I know of real world presidential security, that's not what one would call an easy task, even with a well thought-out plan. If you're expecting the Forest Owls to have one of those, you'd be wrong, and probably disappointed when we get into what the plan really is.

Before we do that, though, I'm going to throw out a few ideas that Rinoa and her friends seem to have passed over in favor of their Plan A. They could have gone to wherever it was he was going to talk to him directly. They could have swapped him out with a body double at one of the stops along the way. In his review, Spoony joked about having one of the party members using one of their summoned monsters to derail the train. Hell, in the game, Zell even kind of suggests this next one: using a rocket launcher to blow up the locomotive and getting to Deling while he was stranded along the way.

But no, the Owls decided that all those ideas were dumb, and the better idea was one that involved running around on top of moving trains, hacking into the systems to decouple the cars, and replacing the real presidential car with a hastily remodeled fake one with an equally hastily made animatronic president inside. I'm gonna say right now that I think Zone and Watts may be Galbadian plants, because, well, Zone keeps getting those debilitating stomach cramps I mentioned last time, and Watts keeps ducking out because he says he's just the team spy and nothing else. On top of that, they're Rinoa's top advisers, and they let her go into this thinking it was a good idea.

This is not to say that the other Owls aren't gibbering idiots, too, because it seems that none of the others tried to talk their fellow Owls out of this, either. That's one thing we're going to have to get used to from here on, folks. Most of the characters in this game tend to act like they're about 30 points shy of an average IQ for people their age.

The good news is that I'm good enough at this that I can pull this off perfectly and raise Squall's salary level by one. Granted, 4000 gold isn't much better than the 3000 we were getting before, but it does add up over time.

Of course, it really helps that the security and control systems on the Galbadian rail system are remarkably easy to hack. The player, as Squall, is given the difficult task of entering two sequences of four-digit codes into the car-coupling system to unlock them so the others can switch the tracks around to splice their own cars in while taking the one with the presumed president in it. The first car requires three codes, the second needs five.

Something I don't get is how nobody figured out that this might be a trap. Not only were the electronics on this train absurdly easy to disrupt, I don't think there were more than ten people total on board, including the people running the train, the security people, and the president himself. Given all that, one would think at least one of these rebels would have considered the possibility of this being a trap.

But none of them did, and surprise, surprise, it's a trap. The Galbadian Secret Service had handily beaten the Forest Owls at their own game and replaced the real President Deling with a high-tech X-Files type zombie body double, complete with an infection of the Thing, which promptly mutates into a hideous beast. Sure, it's got Berserk and Zombie spells, but this is one of those things where it's late as I'm working on this, and I needed to make it quick, so I just used a Phoenix Down to kill the boss's second form. It's really a shame that I rushed it, too, because Zombie is a rather useful spell to junction to either defense or offense in a few parts of the game.

After the fight with the Fake Zombie President Monster, Rinoa, Squall and the others reconvene in the meeting room of the Owls' base car, and Rinoa and her cohorts act all surprised that the whole thing was a trap, and that they'd pretty much blundered into it willingly. As they discuss what their next move is going to be, Selphie and Zell have a rare intelligent moment and decide that they want to know what the exact wording of the Owls' contract with SeeD is. There's a bulletin board with clippings from a resistance newsletter that Squall can read. I don't think it's mandatory reading, but it does come in handy, as it explains how Deling came to power in Galbadia and that he's not popular even there because he's a dishwater approximation of Hitler, surrounded by his own zealots and sending all those who oppose him to a concentration camp. We also find out that only two countries, Galbadia and a place called Eshtar, have ICBMs and could end the world with them.

By the time Squall's read all that, it's a good time to talk to Rinoa. She says she has a plan, but is good enough to show Squall her contract with Balam Garden first. Basically, we're stuck with these idiots for the rest of the game, because our assignment is to help the Owls until either we all die or Timber is freed, whichever comes first. I'd call it just a case of rookies getting shit assignments, were it not for the fact that we've seen that both the Garden and SeeD seem to have this way of getting their jollies by killing its own people and the folks who would hire them.

Once that detail is worked out, our team of slow-boaters start connecting dots as to what's going on with Galbadia. Turns out, Deling had already made it to Timber. He needs to use the TV studio there because it's the only one left in the world that can do over-the-air broadcasting, since all the others have long since switched over to cable-only signals for an as-yet-unexplained reason. They're going to tie the studio into the broadcast tower in Dollet, because it's the only one powerful enough to send out a worldwide signal. There's going to be some big message from Deling to the rest of the world, and somehow, it's just presumed that all the people in the world are going to just know when to turn their TVs on and set them to that one specific over-the-air channel that otherwise hasn't worked since the end of the war that Laguna, Kiros and Ward were in in the dream sequence.

And all this does set up a few questions and observations that I'm going to close with. Something I never really took the time to think about until now is that it seems like there are only five people in the Forest Owl resistance cell, and the only two who are worth a damn go unnamed. Rinoa, who does get a tiny bit interesting shortly, seems like she's just there to fund the group, while Zone and Watts seem the sorts who are so useless to the group that it's hard not to finger them as double agents for Galbadia. Not that the two nameless members are much better. It's just that they actually do a thing or two that's almost worthwhile while we know them.

Add to that Rinoa. I've had some shit ideas in my time, I will not deny that. But I've also had, and still do, really, some good friends and family who are willing to come and talk me down when I start behaving like I'm going to act on some of my dumb ideas, whereas Rinoa doesn't seem to have that. I'm just not sure if they've talked me out of too many of them or not enough, sometimes. All I know is that I did not get where I am today all on my own.

And finally, the whole business of the TV broadcast that the Galbadians are going to do. I actually have some first-hand knowledge and experience with that sort of thing. Granted, it's all pretty basic, when you get down to it, but I still have it, and that's got to count for something, I would hope.

See, when I was in high school, what passed for the local public access channel had its studio in the same building I was taking classes in. Interestingly enough, the station was called OWL-TV. There was even a media production class that I took as an elective my senior year. It was very similar when I went to college, where I majored in journalism, albeit of the print sort. Both those studios were wired into the local cable systems. The university radio station was broadcast directly from the student union.

It's the same way for my uStream show. I can broadcast live from my computer, which is connected directly to the Internet. With all that in mind, my question is this. If the people in the world of Final Fantasy 8 were only going to preserve one over-the-air TV studio, why would it not be the one in the same town as the only broadcast tower, just so they could know what a complete system looked like in case they ever needed one?

But since I'm up writing this way past my bed time, I'm going to end with that one little nit amongst many that people like me tend to pick about this game. Until next time, have fun, stay safe, keep gaming, and DFTBA.

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